Leszek Szafran

Managing Director of Goodyear’s Passenger Tire Division, Eastern Europe-North

Nowadays, more and more often company managers put emphasis on the fact that their organization fits into a broader social context and undertakes initiatives related to corporate social responsibility. What activities do you carry out in this area, how is it implemented, what does responsible leadership mean to you? 

Social responsibility is an integral part of Goodyear’s culture and business strategy around the world. We strongly believe that balancing environmental, social and financial requirements – for the benefit of future generations – is simply our duty. And responsible leadership in this context is a mission to convince thousands of people, both employees and Goodyear partners, of these values.

At Goodyear, we pursue the Better Future strategy – our framework for social responsibility and sustainability based on four pillars: sustainable sourcing, responsible operation and operations, advanced mobility and inspiring culture. As one of the world’s leading tyre manufacturers, we operate at a significant scale – More than 70,000 Goodyear employees deliver high-quality products and advanced solutions in line with the Better Future strategy, based on these 4 pillars.

More and more investors and financial institutions choose as their partners those organizations that operate in accordance with ESG recommendations. Do you think that is right? How does the company you manage go beyond the so-called business as usual? What is it doing for the climate, local communities, diversity or what would you like to implement in the near future?

Of course this is the right thing to do, and I am glad that I work for a company that has set itself very specific goals in these areas. When it comes to sustainable sourcing, in 2021 Goodyear scientists and engineers developed a demonstration tire made from 70% sustainable materials. This brings us closer to our long-term goal of creating a 100% renewable tyre by 2030. In terms of doing business responsibly, our long-term climate ambition is to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Last year, the company achieved a 24% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an 18% reduction in energy intensity compared to 2010.  In the area of advanced mobility, we can boast significant improvements in fuel efficiency, thanks to a 32% reduction in tyre rolling resistance and a reduction in tyre weight in the global consumer tyre portfolio by almost 9% – this is the data for 2021 compared to the baseline values of 2005.

In addition to global goals, we of course conduct many local activities that are important for the local community. For example, we were one of the initiators of the establishment of the Tyre Utilization Centre in Poland – an organization that helps tire manufacturers to fulfil their statutory obligation to manage the issue of used tires, specifically by organizing their collection and disposal. Thanks to CUO, it was possible to significantly reduce the amount of used tires lying in illegal landfills.

We also invest time and energy in the education of our partners – service owners, tire dealers and mechanics. We keep track of current trends and adapt them to the needs of our industry. We offer both off-line and on-line training. We organize workshops in our training center in Sochaczew, where mechanics get their training combined with practice with cars.  In turn, for fans of modern technologies, we offer remote training (on-line): live, recorded and in the form of gamification. These and many other activities are carried out as part of the Goodyear Development Academy.

Educational activities are also addressed directly to drivers. Through our marketing campaigns, we aim to raise their awareness of the importance of tyres for safety and driving comfort. Such education is never enough – tyres are the only point of contact between the vehicle and the road, so their quality is crucial. We support similar actions such as The Polish Tyre Industry Association, of which we are a member.

We are involved in the education of not only adult drivers, but also schoolchildren, trying to interest them, in an original way, in science subjects. For years, we have been a partner of the Children’s Technical University in Podkarpacie – in this region, specifically in Dębica, there is a tire factory in which Goodyear has a majority share. As one of the largest employers in this region, we feel responsible for the local community. We were involved, for example, in the Safe Way to School campaign, organized by the Municipal Office in Dębica, we also provided Dębica high schools with the equipment necessary to learn first aid.

Every company creates its corporate culture that embodies the values that customers see externally. Do customers prefer to choose this particular company because it does something good with which the customer identifies or is it mainly price-driven purchasing decisions? What is your opinion, what trends have you observed, is something changing in this area?

Of course, the price matters, regardless of whether we understand the customer as a business partner or the final consumer. When they have a choice of two companies with a similar offer, the purchase or partnership decision may be dominated by the issue of the values that the company holds. We know that consumers are choosing more and more consciously, they are interested in whether they buy products from socially responsible companies, and I think this trend will continue to strengthen, and we at Goodyear have a very attractive and competitive offer in this area.

The development of values and ethical principles in many organizations may indicate that awareness in this area is growing. Many managers declare that they put ethics at the center of their activities. Is compliance with the principles of fair play in management a guarantee of stable development of the company?

LSz: I have no doubt that I do, and I’m glad that I’m working for a company where ethics, values, the principle of mutual respect are taken seriously and as a priority. We have our own Code of Professional Ethics, which is a signpost for us to conduct business ethically on a par with legal regulations. We constantly refresh and update these practices through a series of internal training that make all employees – not only managers – aware of the importance of diversity at work, teach how to manage this diversity, or how to quickly recognize and prevent conflicts of interest. Knowing how to spot warning signs and where to report your observations, It is crucial here to stop unethical phenomena. At Goodyear, we have a number of activities that support ethical action, such as a dedicated hotline where you can report sensitive matters and receive support and guidance on how to manage them. This is one of the most democratic tools with which the company unequivocally supports us in taking care of high ethical standards.

An additional issue is the personal attitude of the leader and the ability to simply be a good example on a daily basis – in everyday contacts, during meetings, meetings, all interactions with the team and our business partners. Treating people fairly must begin at the “top” in order to be a signpost for others. Of course, this is important for the stability of the company, because it affects people’s attachment to the workplace. Most of us feel an inner need to do good and transparent things in our lives, so it’s important that the time we spend at work meets that need. The same applies to cooperation with partners –  Sometimes difficult business decisions are necessary, but as long as we make them transparently, in accordance with applicable law, social standards and self-respect, we have a chance to remain in a stable, long-term partnership and develop in the right direction.

The world needs wise and good leaders who want to have a positive impact on their environment. Was there a moment when you started to look for a deeper meaning in your work, an opportunity to do something good for your communities or country? What has been achieved?

From the very beginning of my work, I have been looking for a deeper meaning in everything we do as an organization and individually as its employees. This search grew with my development and position in our organization, and I can safely say that the higher I was in this hierarchy, the more these needs became more pronounced and resonated above the standard implementation of entrusted tasks and personal development. Gone are the days when a leader felt fulfilled because his work and efforts ensured the company’s current and future market success. In today’s business reality, an additional, no less important determinant of fulfillment is the situation in which the company and business have a positive impact on the environment and society, its health, safety, development and future. This is the mission I pursue in our company together with my team,  providing more and more technologically advanced products, services and modern solutions in the field of mobility. At the same time, we are constantly improving awareness and road safety and ensuring sustainable mobility for millions of people every day. Moreover, this is not our last word on this subject. We have many very interesting and ambitious initiatives to implement both in the near and distant future, and always for the benefit of our business, society and the environment of which we are an integral part.

Leszek Szafran is a graduate of the Faculty of Management and Marketing at the Cracow University of Economics and the Senior Leader Development Program at the School of Management at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. Associated with the company for over 25 years, where he gained his extensive professional experience in numerous managerial positions in the area of sales and marketing both on the Polish market and in the international structures of the Goodyear Group, acting m.in as General Manager for South Africa, Sales and Marketing Director for the EEMEA Region, Director of Sales of Passenger and Commercial Tires in Emerging Markets, Director of Truck Tire Retreading in the EMEA Region and General Manager of Sales for Poland and Ukraine. Since 2021, he has been the Managing Director of the Passenger Tire Division at Goodyear in the Eastern Europe-North region, and since 2017 he has also held the position of President of the Management Board of Firma Oponiarska Dębica S.A., in which Goodyear has a majority stake.

Last Updated on January 11, 2023 by Anastazja Lach